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I often buy Chinese tea by weight in some local stores and at times I find some inclusions that should not be there. Up to this date I have found:

  1. A human hair
  2. Some sand
  3. Some white dots (presumably parts of a plant) that always come with Pu'er stones and float on the surface
  4. Parts of other plants or a trunk parts of the tea plant that was not meant for tea
  5. Some kind of fluff (https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/74851/identify-fluff-that-i-have-found-in-tea)

Finding the fluff finally got me and I decided to ask here.

Is it normal for tea to contain various inclusions like that? I understand that tea processing is a complex process performed by humans at factories in huge batches. So is it common for something like that to get into the process?

I ask because, for example, if you consider some kind of grain, there are often inclusions of other things (other grains or something else) too, and this is known and normal for lower quality (cheaper) grain. You don't throw away the pack if there are some other kind of grains and you simply remove them. Various manufacturers differ in quality and you can choose. You know that the more expensive grain should be better processed and have no inclusions, when a cheaper one is ok to have them. Now this is not the case with the Chinese tea. There's no (obvious) choice of the manufacturer, it simply comes from a particular part of China. I can only choose a local vendor and which tea grade to buy (where tea grade tells what part of the tea plant was used in the making, and nothing more, not the quality of the manufacturing).

I have started drinking Chinese tea not so long ago, and I don't have much experience of it. So my question is: are the inclusions that I have described above common and known for tea, or should I consider buying at a different store, from a different vendor? If the tea is coming from China, will it be different, or is it the same in all the shops? What would you do in a situation like this?

  • What do you mean by okay? Do you mean safe to consume? Legal? Ethical? – GdD Jul 10 '18 at 10:39
  • @GdD thanks! I have rephrased the question a bit. Now it should be more clear. I just want to know, if tea always contains something and I should just throw it away and pay no attention? – noncom Jul 10 '18 at 10:42
  • That's still unclear, why would you throw it away and pay no attention? Do you mean throw the hair you find away and not worry about it? You need to be more specific, whether you mean safe to consume, or something else. – GdD Jul 10 '18 at 10:45
  • @GdD well, I am not sure how to clarify more... probably the fact that you are asking means that this is not a normal situation with tea and I should consider changing my vendor. I have tried to be more explicit and rephrased the question again. I hope it's better now :) – noncom Jul 10 '18 at 11:09
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    Why would you consume any food you find contaminates in? That is just the stuff you see. – paparazzo Jul 10 '18 at 12:44
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Short Answer: No. Change your tea vendor.

Long Answer:

My sweetie is a tea drinker, and gets Chinese teas from many premium vendors in the US, including Ten Ren, Jasmine Pearl, Silk Road, Vital Leaf, Red Robe, and others. We currently have a kitchen cabinet so full of teas that bags fall out every time I open it. Most of these teas are from China, as that country is both the origin of tea and the biggest producer.

In 10 years, I don't recall ever encountering garbage like you describe in tea.

I suspect that you are getting your tea from a bargain-basement source, were you buy tea for $10/lbs or less. That's going to be one of the things that makes cheap vendors and grades different from premium ones.

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I understand what, you mean as this is a problem you see with pu erh teas from small factories. Especially older pu erh teas, as modern tea factories have a much cleaner setup.

In the past teas where wet piled on concrete floors. Nowadays, they're more and more elevated on wooden surfaces, which is a great improvement. Nevertheless, tea factories that produce cheap tea still put efficiency as their number one priority.

Finding hairs in your pu erh tea is not ok, as this can easily be solved by wearing caps during processing. Trunk/stem parts doesn't hurt though, as it can be part of a blend. It should have excessive amount of trunks.

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    Maybe check your last sentence - is it really supposed to have lots of stem parts? – Stephie Apr 22 at 12:42
  • Yes that can be ok. Especially with oolong and pu erh tea. Many pu erh tea have a 4-digit name such as the Dayi 7542. The first two digits represent the year of the recipe, and the third digit actually represent the grade/size of the raw material used. The higher the number, the more larger leaves and stems it will contain. Very high numbers are more often used for ripe pu erh teas that are more heavily fermented through the wet-piling method. – Lisa at Teasenz.com May 15 at 8:47

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